Most Californians think the worst of the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, but amid yet another coronavirus surge, fewer residents are confident better days are ahead than in May, when case counts were relatively low and omicron wasn’t tearing through communities.
That’s according to a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll conducted in late January, which found that residents, faced with rising prices and increasingly skeptical of President Joe Biden, are also more pessimistic about the direction of the country than they were a year ago.
Roughly two-thirds, 67%, of Californians say the worst of the pandemic is behind us, down from 86% last May. Now, about four in 10 residents say they are either very or somewhat concerned about getting COVID-19 and needing to be hospitalized, up from roughly 28% last May.
That’s despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of residents — 82% — say they have already gotten vaccinated (76% completing an initial vaccine series and 6% receiving the first of two doses), which protects the vast majority of people against serious illness and death. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be concerned, despite the fact that they are more likely to be vaccinated.
“It’s shocking because they are the vaxxed and boosted individuals,” said Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF. “I think it’s anxiety.”
Gandhi thinks some of that anxiety is likely driven by the way health officials and politicians, particularly in California, presented the virus to residents.
“We used fear. We used it as a public health tactic,” she said. “Walking back that fear is so hard.”
Aside from partisan differences, the survey found some other variation in vaccination rates, with 90% of Asian Americans, 82% of Latinos, 80% of White people and 79% of African Americans saying they’ve been jabbed. In California, Latino residents were hit especially hard in the pre-vaccine days of the pandemic, which may have helped drive up the Latino vaccination rate.
The poll found wider variations when it came to boosters, with 76% of Asian Americans, 71% of White people, 47% of African Americans and 45% of Latinos receiving a booster shot.
Although most residents are vaccinated, 12% still say they will definitely not get a COVID vaccine, while another 2% say they probably won’t get a shot. While just 3% of Democrats say they definitely will not, that figure rises to 27% among Republicans and 18% among independent voters.
Resistance is highest in the Inland Empire, Orange County/San Diego and the Central Valley. At least 15% of residents in each region say they will not get jabbed, a figure that drops to 10% in Los Angeles and just 5% in the Bay Area. Men are more likely to refuse than women, and White people are more resistant than African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans, who are the least resistant.
The survey findings are based on responses from 1,640 California adult residents, with a sampling error of 3.5%. Interviews were conducted by phone between Jan. 16-25 in English and Spanish. While omicron case counts have declined since the poll was conducted, PPIC president Mark Baldassare said during a phone interview he thinks “there’s still a lot of uncertainty” with talk of new variants and omicron still spreading.
Overall, Californians say COVID continues to be the most pressing issue, with homelessness, jobs, the economy and inflation also ranking high.
Those were the topics that surfaced most when Californians were asked the most important issues for the governor and legislature to work on in 2022.
The poll found Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approval among Californians stands at 56%, but just half of residents think the state is going in the right direction. While Californians are less concerned about a recession than in the past, they are increasingly worried about rising prices, with 61% saying they have caused financial hardship.
About one in five Californians, and one in three lower-income residents, have experienced severe hardship.
“There was so much destruction, uncertainty and stress in the first part of this year,” Baldassare said, “and that’s definitely reflected in the poll.”
Credit: Source link